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Thread: Help! 3 weeks in Europe - trains, planes and no idea what luggage to use

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    Help! 3 weeks in Europe - trains, planes and no idea what luggage to use

    Hi, all! I'm a Tom Bihn addict, but thus far Tom has been supplying my every day carry and carry-on needs. When my wife and I have traveled around the US and the Caribbean, I've used a Western Flyer as my carry-on, she's used a random backup she's had forever and we each have a pretty generic American Tourister rolling suitcase (so generic that we've covered ours in different colors of duct tape so that people will stop picking it up thinking it's theirs!).

    The AT stuff is really starting to show it's age and isn't holding up well, and we've planned a 3 week trip to Europe; we're flying there, doing some travel around Europe via both train and local (budget!) airlines, and then flying back. We're going to stop over in NYC on the way back for a few days, so it's going to be quite a trip. Within Europe we'll be as far north as London and as far south as Venice, and we're going in the fall.

    What I'm trying to figure out is - what do I replace the AT stuff with? I always end up having to check a bag even for a one week trip, so I'm thinking there's no way I'll get down to carry-on-only for a 3 week trip. But all of Tom's bags seem to be aimed at the carry-on size; am I going to have to (sigh) find another brand for the checked bag? Or is there something I'm missing? Any recommendations?

    Thanks!

    -Josh

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    Registered User bchaplin's Avatar
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    All the Tom Bihn stuff is un-wheeled; that's part of their design philosophy. You could check one of their bags but I don't think they're intended for that. Personally, I'm not a light traveler. For short trips of 4 days or less I can easily fit all my things into an Aeronaut or Western Flyer, but for longer ones I end up combining a bag with a wheeled suitcase. I try to carry that on too, but if it doesn't fit on the plane and has to be gate-checked I still have my essentials in the carry-on.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bchaplin View Post
    All the Tom Bihn stuff is un-wheeled; that's part of their design philosophy. You could check one of their bags but I don't think they're intended for that. Personally, I'm not a light traveler. For short trips of 4 days or less I can easily fit all my things into an Aeronaut or Western Flyer, but for longer ones I end up combining a bag with a wheeled suitcase. I try to carry that on too, but if it doesn't fit on the plane and has to be gate-checked I still have my essentials in the carry-on.
    Yes, I was reading about the no-wheels design philosophy and some of the reasons behind it - I completely get it, and I suppose that's why Tom's bags don't have the capacity a full-sized suitcase on wheels has.

    Is it taboo to ask if anyone has found anything approaching Tom's quality and amazing design in a full-sized, rolling suitcase suitable for checking?

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    Tom Bihn bags are designed to fit the carry-on dimensions of most airlines. Not full size (checked) dimensions.

    When you say "full size," do you mean 24'? 26"? 28" or bigger? Remember, most airlines have weight and size limits for their checked bags as well.

    The best wheeled bags are probably either Briggs & Riley, Tumi or Hartmann. Delsey is slightly cheaper but make good bags.

    Now as for Europe....remember, all the discounters make you pay for checked luggage. And it is not cheap. Those cheap tickets sometimes become very expensive.

    There are no porters nor is there checked luggage on trains. You are responsible for your own luggage. For smaller bags, you can usually find room in the rack above your seat. Larger bags, such as "full size" ones, have racks nears the ends of the cars. You will be responsible for lifting those bags on and off the trains, up and down the stairs to the platforms, and so on.

    Wheeled bags and cobblestone streets in Europe are not the best of friends.

    I've done Europe numerous times both with wheels and without. So I speak from experience.

    I think what I'm trying to get to is that you might want to look for the smallest wheeled bag you think you can get by with rather than just looking for the biggest.

    Or, you could challenge yourself to learn to pack less and take only carry-ons.
    Last edited by Frank II; 08-16-2012 at 08:30 PM.
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    Our family of 4 has 2 rollaboard bags in the smallest size - eligible for carryon. One is a Tumi and one is Rick Steves. We have a bunch of convertible backpack type bags, from Rick Steves, Patagonia, and Tom Bihn. We all trade off what we use (except that I get first dibs on the TB bag.) I like both of the roller bags. Then I discovered that a TB TriStar will actually hold as much or more than either of these bags because the frame on a roller bag takes up a lot of space! And on a trip that involves a lot of public transportation, and stairs, having an easy way to carry the bag is awfully nice.

    Dumping the wheels also saves several pounds, so that can make a huge difference on those European airlines - the difference between having to pay for excess weight or not.

    On my most recent trip - 3 weeks in Spain and Turkey - I forced myself to pare down the wardrobe a bit, and made it with a TriStar, much to the envy of my travelling companions. This was a trip that involved major cosmopolitan cities and a week on a boat, so I needed nice clothes and hiking boots, beach towels and urban gear - it kind of ran the gamut. I ended up checking the bag a few times, and it came through just perfectly. I'm glad I did the trip that way.

    So the short answer to your question: buy the Aeronaut or TriStar and see if you can make it work. You probably don't need more than they can hold. If the bag gets too heavy, check it and give your back a rest. Enjoy carefree travel!

    P.S. I have to add that it's fun to breeze through customs without waiting for luggage, or to have the bus driver's jaw drop when he sees you carry your own bag easily. It's cool to carry on!
    Last edited by kmcg; 08-16-2012 at 08:24 PM.

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    Registered User Lani's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frank II View Post
    Or, you could challenge yourself to learn to pack less and take only carry-ons.
    Frank's gentle suggestion reminds of that old adage: "Give me a fish and I'll eat for a day; teach me to fish and I'll eat for a lifetime"--because while we could offer you some suggestions on brands of wheeled luggage, in the longterm, many of us light travelers would like to help you learn how to travel lightly so that you don't ever have to worry about this.

    When I first saw your topic subject, I thought you were planning on taking a 3-week Rick Steves Europe Through the Back Door tour (his original tour is 3 weeks long, and he still offers it). If you haven't ever read his books, I suggest you pop over to the bookstore and take a look at his many travel guides; all of them (but especially his main ETBD book) has a chapter devoted entirely to how to pack lightly. Sure, there are websites (like Frank's and mine), but sometimes it's just easier sitting at the Barnes & Noble with a cup of java and reading an actual book--and take a look at the various how-tos that Rick explains in his chapter.

    For someone who's never traveled that lightly, I know it can seem very intimidating. How can a person possibly travel so lightly when there are so many things to take?

    The traveling-light philosophy tackles it from a couple of different fronts, including:
    • Learning how to put together all the clothes you're taking, as an ensemble that all work together with one main color scheme, allowing you to take fewer items of clothing
    • Finding lighter or smaller counterparts to things you already take, so they take up less room in your bag
    • Learning how to make do without some of the "just in case" you're currently taking with you
    • Figuring out what sorts of souvenirs to buy and what to do with them so you don't wind up gaining check-in bags as you travel


    I have some friends who roll their eyes at my carryon-only philosophy, although my husband and I usually exchange knowing glances anytime we travel with them, and they have to lug their uncooperative wheeled bags up and down stairs, or their check-in luggage winds up at another airport in a very different city.

    Now, I won't tell you you should NEVER check bags in. For example, if you're traveling first class on a direct flight to your destination, and you're going to a luxury resort where they pick you up at the airport, and you plan to spend the whole 3 weeks staying put at the same hotel, then you have a far stronger argument for taking big check-in rolling uprights with you. By traveling first class, you probably won't have any checked-bag fees to pay, and with a direct flight, your bags will likely not get lost. And if you have a porter take care of your bags as soon as you arrive, and you don't have to carry them anywhere yourself, it might make sense.

    That said, if you're taking various forms of transportation, making connecting flights, going to multiple cities, etc. etc., your best option, in my opinion, is to go with just carry-ons.

    It's quite doable. People on the boards here do it all the time. Try it as a challenge to yourself to see if it's something you can do. You can each carry an Aeronaut or a Tri-Star--unless you're flying on Virgin Atlantic (which has very stringent weight restrictions on carry-ons), you should be able to carry those on with no problem.

    If you have back problems, one solution is to use a luggage cart. You can carry that separately.

    For your daily activities, you can use a little daypack (things like the Tom Bihn Cafe Bags [comes in 3 sizes], the Packing Cube Shoulder Bag, the Packing Cube Backpack [both of which you can use to stuff your clothes in inside your carry-on when you're traveling], or something like Rick Steves' super soft and lightweight Civita backpack.

    You can do eet!!
    Lani Teshima: A Dyneema diva with a closetful of Tom Bihn products!
    Publisher, The Travelite FAQ: Don't get saddled with baggage—free yourself & your mind by packing lightly!
    Editor, MousePlanet: Detailed park guides, daily news & stories from all over the Disney kingdom | Technical writer | Marathoner

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    Thanks for the input, all! Lani, I actually just started reading Rick's 'main' ETBD book last night! It's taught me quite a bit so far. Also, I can't believe I hadn't heard of the site you edit (MousePlanet) before - I've bookmarked it, because we're -huge- WDW fans; we actually got married there and have been probably about 10 times now.

    I've been trying to convert my wife to the idea of travelling with only carry-ons, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen. I'm a big fan of the carry-on only philosophy, and I think I might have her convinced to try it on our next trip to WDW, at least, but for a 3 week trip to Europe, I'm having a hard enough time convincing her she only needs one suitcase!

    I've been looking at getting an Aeronaut or a Tri-Star to use as my carry-on, at least. It looks like the Aeronaut is on backorder, though, so my only option is the Tri-Star. I don't want to get the Black/Iberian one, so it looks like my options are Forest/Steel or Cardinal/Steel. Any opinions on those colors? And who knows, maybe once I receive it, I'll discover I can fit everything into it and convince my wife to give carry-on-only travel a try - from your post, kmcg, it sounds like it might actually be possible!

    Frank, right now we're carrying 29"~30" bags, but from the research I've done so far (thank you -so- much for mentioning those brands) - my capacity-versus-weight requirements, reviews I've read and my wife's input on the look and feel of the different brands, I -think- we've narrowed it down to Delsey. I'm hoping we can squeeze down to 25" bags - I've found some 25" bags that actually have the same capacity as our current bags, which I guess is due to smaller frames? Not sure how else they could squeeze more capacity into a smaller space!

    I do understand what you mean about the baggage fees - before we booked our airfare for each leg of the trip, I checked baggage fees, carry-on allowances and checked bag allowances and factored that in to the expense - and you're right, on a couple of the legs of the trip, what I guess you could call the 'full fare' carriers ended up slightly cheaper than the discounters once you factored in the bag fees!

    Thanks for your help, everyone - I've narrowed it down to a brand of rolling luggage, now I just have to decide:

    Hard-side or soft-side rolling luggage
    What color Tri-Star to get
    What accessories to get for the Tri-Star to maximize how much I can neatly pack in it - I suppose I'll pick up some of the Tri-Star Packing Cubes, for sure.

    Thanks for your input, everyone!

    -Josh

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    Registered User TavaPeak's Avatar
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    Josh - I took my Tristar to Uganda for 2 weeks, and loved it. It's beautifully organized. I recommend getting some pouches to organize small things (the pouches clip into the O-rings in the bag). You can go a little crazy with TB accessories - it's not hard! The TB packing cubes that fit the Tristar make the most of every inch. The Travel Tray gives a central place for the daily small stuff that gathers on a side table.

    I now have a 3D clear organizer cube for my 311 toiletries. Someone posted the idea to clip it to a strap (attached to an O-ring), and just leave it attached outside your bag as you go through security. One less thing to worry about losing - brilliant.

    I'm not an ultralight packer (big clothes, big shoe-size), but TriStar is a beautiful thing. Can't advise you on color. I'm guessing you'll get votes for both here. Mine is steel/ultraviolet Dyneema, and it's gorgeous. I'm thrilled with it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Josh View Post
    Thanks for the input, all! Lani, I actually just started reading Rick's 'main' ETBD book last night! It's taught me quite a bit so far. Also, I can't believe I hadn't heard of the site you edit (MousePlanet) before - I've bookmarked it, because we're -huge- WDW fans; we actually got married there and have been probably about 10 times now.
    Thanks for your kind words! Although we cover both coasts, our headquarters are in Southern California, and we have a far stronger presence with Disneyland in Anaheim than with Walt Disney World (which is dominated by Deb Wills' AllEars and the DISBoards). For the past few years, though, we've been an alliance site for USA Today, as their official information source for Disney theme parks. We publish new content everyday, and we are active in social media and discussion boards as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Josh View Post
    I've been trying to convert my wife to the idea of travelling with only carry-ons, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen. I'm a big fan of the carry-on only philosophy, and I think I might have her convinced to try it on our next trip to WDW, at least, but for a 3 week trip to Europe, I'm having a hard enough time convincing her she only needs one suitcase!
    Getting her to try it for a WDW is a great way to test it out, though. A couple of things you can try, even if in the end she wants to take a check-in bag: Get her to try packing as if she was only taking a carry-on, and then help her pack them into your Tri-Star just to see how everything would fit. Like TavaPeak recommends, try picking up packing cubes and stuff sacks to help keep things organized. She might be surprised at how manageable it is. The second thing is, tell her any extra luggage she takes, she has to carry herself--tee hee! Don't be a manly man and carry everything for her. ;-)

    In all seriousness, a lot of reticence comes from having never tried it before, and the feeling of insecurity ("what if I 'need' something that I didn't pack?"). In my experience, you can almost always find whatever you need, at your destination. Wind up in a torrential downpour? Buy an umbrella.

    Quote Originally Posted by Josh View Post
    Hard-side or soft-side rolling luggage
    If you're gonna buy one for check-in purposes, I'd suggest a hard-sided one because it will be less likely to get crushed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Josh View Post
    What color Tri-Star to get
    The Forest is a beautiful color. And a nice change from the standard black bags.

    Quote Originally Posted by Josh View Post
    What accessories to get for the Tri-Star to maximize how much I can neatly pack in it - I suppose I'll pick up some of the Tri-Star Packing Cubes, for sure.
    You can really go nuts, but I'd consider at least a Packing Cube Backpack and Packing Cube Shoulder Bag (since they can serve double-duty as day bags for you).
    Lani Teshima: A Dyneema diva with a closetful of Tom Bihn products!
    Publisher, The Travelite FAQ: Don't get saddled with baggage—free yourself & your mind by packing lightly!
    Editor, MousePlanet: Detailed park guides, daily news & stories from all over the Disney kingdom | Technical writer | Marathoner

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    The ebags branded bags are good and they have lifetime warranty.

    http://www.ebags.com/category/luggag...rigin=left_nav

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    Registered User Lani's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by monkeyluis View Post
    The ebags branded bags are good and they have lifetime warranty.
    eBag-branded products are also pretty affordable, from what I've seen. Unlike Tom Bihn bags, though, not made in the USA.
    Lani Teshima: A Dyneema diva with a closetful of Tom Bihn products!
    Publisher, The Travelite FAQ: Don't get saddled with baggage—free yourself & your mind by packing lightly!
    Editor, MousePlanet: Detailed park guides, daily news & stories from all over the Disney kingdom | Technical writer | Marathoner

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lani View Post
    eBag-branded products are also pretty affordable, from what I've seen. Unlike Tom Bihn bags, though, not made in the USA.
    Very true on that part.

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    Imported brands "lifetime warranty" usually means. When their stuff breaks on the airport elevator, the train station stairs, in the middle of foot traffic on the way to the hotel, you have to somehow find a way to put your things together buy a cheepie at the airport, near the train station or the hotel then email the manufacturer for a return so that they can send you the same cheap stuff at home. Not at your destination.

    I have had to deal with two import cheapies in a really bothersome way, one broke the same day I bought it, the other was holding a laptop for bike commuting, I saw the handle slowly unravelling from my husband back while he was biking away from the open air metro station.
    When I arrived at the bus station I was relieved it was still hanging by a thread.

    That is what one get with imported cheapies.

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    Registered User Lani's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by backpack View Post
    That is what one get with imported cheapies.
    I've personally never purchased an eBags-branded product so I can't speak for their quality (or lack thereof). I don't necessarily equate "cheap" with "poorly made," especially since this is basically their generic house brand, and their cost must be much lower for them.

    That said, I think backpack makes an excellent point--especially since Josh is interested in buying a check-in rolling upright. That is, it's bad enough to have a bag fall apart on you, but if it happens to your check-in luggage while it's out of your possession, it could mean a pretty major headache.

    If I were to go with a check-in rolling upright route, I'd probably go with a hard shell, and use a luggage strap to keep it from popping open. The horror!
    Lani Teshima: A Dyneema diva with a closetful of Tom Bihn products!
    Publisher, The Travelite FAQ: Don't get saddled with baggage—free yourself & your mind by packing lightly!
    Editor, MousePlanet: Detailed park guides, daily news & stories from all over the Disney kingdom | Technical writer | Marathoner

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    There has been testimonies of Tom Bihn Bags owners who proudly showed their brand new 15 year old bag.

    Older bags have been spotted on people by Tom Bags fans and Darcy pointed out the name of the bag and its date of production.

    Tom Bihn Bag Sightings!
    Last edited by backpack; 08-29-2012 at 03:49 PM.
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